The NIFRS Gaelic Football Club will make an historic and memorable trip to New York City to celebrate St Patrick’s Day 2020 where they will represent the fire service by playing FDNY GAA Team in Gaelic Park.
The historical nature behind this journey has been almost a 14-year wait. Back in 2006 the club made this same journey to the Big Apple, invited by the FDNY and since then they have had enjoyed a great sporting relationship reinforced by the common principals of firefighters.
As a club for at least 20 years they have successfully represented the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service at every occasion, promoting Gaelic football and its participation for all personnel throughout our Fire service.
Watch Commander Ronán O’Reilly and current club chairperson/manager said: “In more recent years we have been very fortunate to represent our service at Gaelic games for its inaugural showcasing in Vancouver for the World Police & Fire Games 2009.
“Again in NYC 2011 for the WPFG, where we renewed our long friendship with the FDNY GAA crew.
“In 2013 (Belfast hosted the Global games) our senior lads were inspiring in a sensational Gaelic football final. We took our first Ulster Inter-firms Championship in 2013.”
This return leg to NYC, playing FDNY GAA, has been well overdue.
The seed was planted by their old comrade FDNY Battalion Chief Eddie Boles in Sept 2018 when the Club played Dublin Fire Brigade on the hallowed turf of Croke Park.
It was an historic event for their players – both the young and the timeworn – who donned the boots to feel like ‘County men’.
That evening in the Croke Park Hotel, they took time to remember the stray points that often ‘dislodged the corner flag’.
It was then that Eddie floated the idea; rightly pointing out that the 2006 expedition to NY deserved a new project.
O’Reilly said: “As our club’s chairperson and team manager I have never been found wanting for members or our committee to step up to the challenge when we set out to plan this tour, it’s been quite a challenge, Coronavirus and all!
“14 years on, and we’re back, a 42-strong contingent from our club, accompanied by our NIFRS Board Chairperson Carmel McKinney.
“Carmel has been very supportive of the friendship links established with our FDNY colleagues and she will hope to attend our historic match on March 15 at the home of Gaelic games in NY, Gaelic Park, Bronx.”
Among their ranks they have plenty of boys who know where the posts are. They include Peter Turley (Downpatrick and just retired Down midfielder) Eoin Gormley (Trillick), Damien Cassidy (Ederney), Noel Mullan (Cookstown Fr Rocks) and Ciaran McKenna (Pomeroy).
O’Reilly is a Devenish Club man, though he says has long since retired. So Gaelic Park awaits them, as does the St Patrick’s Day Parade at Times Square.
They also plan to pay their respects at Ground Zero to our fallen colleagues in the emergency services.
The travelling club members are represented by not just serving officers, but numerous support staff and a significant number of retired personnel also.
The FDNY have been over to Belfast, to compete and enjoy the many visitor attractions on a number of occasions since 2006, and have always made a sizable donation to the Children’s Burns unit at the RVH.
On this occasion the NIFRS were determined to reciprocate. They set out to raise £5000 for the NY Firefighters Burns Foundation, and achieved it.